This Monday’s Brain Teasers

Ron Bolin, Mar 1, 2011

At the 7pm opening of the Feb. 28, 2011, meeting of Nanaimo’s City Council, I recognized as in  attendance three of the six candidates running for a seat on Council in this month’s by-election.  At its 11: 20pm close I saw none of them.  Not a good start.  Neither did any take advantage of the availability of Council and TV exposure to explain their position on tax rates nor on the financial plan even though these will not, due to the timing of the by-election, be passed until May 15.  This means that their input could be useful if they are elected and should be presented openly to the public whose votes they seek.  One has to wonder about the commitment to the job which these candidates have thus far demonstrated.  They will have one more chance to make their opinions broadly and publically known at the March 14 Council meeting.

You may note that this was, at nearly 4 ½ hours, one of Council’s lengthier meetings.  The time was devoted primarily to two issues, both involving conflicts with residents, and both, at least in my mind, requiring a higher level of legal advice than was, in my opinion, available at Council.  Watch for these issues to return.

The first dealt with a development permit for a 7/11 convenience store on a vacant lot on Nicol Street. This same location had apparently been a 7/11 store some years ago which attracted considerable undesirable activity at night and the neighbours at the meeting were very concerned about a repeat of the problems which they have worked so hard to eradicate.  All seem to be in agreement with the development as proposed, except for its hours of operation.  The neighbourhood wanted to see the operation closed between the hours of 2am and 6am.  The owner threatened in a letter to cease the development if he wasn’t able to operate around the clock.  In the end Council voted to grant the development permit, but asked staff to come back with a plan that could restrict the 24 hour operation currently available to the property.  Councillors Sherry and Kipp recommended that both parts of Staff’s recommendation be sent back and that the Development Permit not be granted until the matter of the hours was clear and suggested that granting the DP now was to grant it under the existing conditions, i.e. 24 hour operation and that to change it later could give rise to legal questions.  The balance of Council (Councillor Bestwick was absent) voted to grant the DP immediately.  It will be interesting to see what happens in this matter.  This was the first case where, at least to my mind, real legal legal advice was required.

The second involved Development Variance Permit 166, at 2323 Arbot Road, known as The Resort on the Lake, a Recreational Vehicle (RV) park which has apparently been allowed, during the course of some 18 years and numerous variance permits, to be transformed, at least partly into a Mobile Home Park.  RV Parks and Mobile Home Parks have different regulations as to setbacks.  This has been compounded by the construction, some at least by following proper city building permit procedures, of outbuildings and/or fixed add-on structures to the RV or Mobile Home units.  This leads to the anomaly whereby an apparent single structure is made up of one piece which requires no setback (re: RV rules), but the attached fixed part is subject to mobile home rules which would demand that a significant portion of the structure which may well have been given a building permit by the city, would have to be removed.  While I do not pretend to understand the ins and outs of all that has happened here, it appears to me that there is no good solution and that some of these problems might possibly be construed as negligence on the part of city in allowing the use creep over the years that has led to some of these difficulties.  The situation is now apparently further compounded by a proposed change of use from a membership style resort to a fee simple subdivision which will entail the demarcation of property boundaries which were not required of an RV Park.  Wrap your head around this one by reading the proponents report as well as the city’s recommendation and then watch the Council video, item 11 (d), at

Please be aware that this item runs from 9:19pm to 11:03pm.

It must also be noted that in the end Council, wisely I think, defeated the proposal.  But the liabilities which have been generated during this bizarre development remain to be seen, as does the question of to whom those liabilities will accrue. Will any of them land in the pockets of taxpayers?